Sunday Sermon for September 16, 2018, the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Is 50:5-9a; Jas 2:14-18; Mk 8:27-35

The Church is calling everyone who has faith to step forward and demonstrate their faith through works, as we hear in the second reading.  These works will be manifold, so there is no way to predict what each person may be asked to do.  For some it will depend upon the gifts God has given for prayer, for counsel, for leadership, etc.  For all of us much will depend upon our circumstances, because God will use our situations as a means to serve others.

The Church herself is going to demonstrate her fidelity to the Truth and her love for her Spouse, our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Her conformity to her Beloved is going to be made perfect.  In her present circumstances, she is not turning back or taking an easier path.  She is allowing her back to be beaten, and she is not hiding her face from buffets and spitting.

She is now, and will to the end, demonstrate that she is not only faithful, but is not put to shame or disgrace because she knows the Lord God is her help.  When Jesus endured His passion, an outside observer might think He was abandoned by God and not protected.  Of course, He is God, so He could never be abandoned, but it certainly appeared that God was nowhere to be found.

As the Church goes through her passion, our Lord will be closer than He has ever been before, but we may not be able to see or feel His presence.  The Church is filled with sinful people who have offended our Lord’s fidelity and charity countless times.  Others have rejected the truth and chosen to walk the wide and easy road leading to perdition.  The Church herself, however, has never wavered in teaching the Truth to the whole world; she has never failed in her love for her Spouse.  So, we might feel shame or disgrace due to our infidelities toward our Lord, but the Church is neither shamed nor disgraced because she has remained and always will remain faithful.

The Church is hated throughout the world because of the Truth.  Jesus is the Truth Who told us we will be hated because they hated Him first.  Being the Mystical Christ, it makes perfect sense that the Church is hated because she proclaims Jesus Christ to the world.  Being the Mystical Christ, it also makes perfect sense that the Church is loved because Jesus is love and deserves to be loved.  Being the Mystical Christ, it makes sense that the Church is faithful to her Spouse by bearing witness to the Truth in a perfect act of love.

In the Gospel today, our Lord asks His Apostles who people say He is.  While they offer a variety of suggestions, only Peter is correct in stating Jesus is the Christ.  Now it is our turn, not only to state Who Jesus is, but to state clearly who the Church is.  The Church is the Mystical Person of Jesus Christ and the Bride of the Lamb.  She is being conformed, indeed transformed, into Christ and the marriage is about to be consummated.  The two will become one in their mystical union on the Cross.

Two thousand years ago our Lord told His Apostles that many prophets and righteous people longed to see what they saw but did not see it and to hear what they heard but did not hear it.  So now, many Saints and holy people longed to be crucified with Christ but were not given that opportunity.  We can look at the martyrs and see how they were crucified with Christ.  St. Paul tells us he was crucified with Christ.  The charity and sacrifice of these lovers of Christ allowed them to share in our Lord’s crucifixion and, indeed, to extend it through time.  They were given the grace to individually share in the Passion of Jesus, but none of these people shared in the crucifixion of Mystical Person of Christ.

Today, we can say, many Saints and holy people longed to have the opportunity we have but did not have it, to be alive when the Church was crucified, but died before our time.  Now it is our time, a blessed time, the most glorious time to be alive since Jesus and Mary were on earth.  Our Lord told us that when we see some of the things happening, which we are now seeing, to stand up, raise our heads, and know the time of our redemption is at hand.  Jesus told us we must take up our cross and follow Him.  Do not be shamed or disgraced; profess your faith in the Church and demonstrate your faith in works of love, the greatest of which is to be crucified with Christ as member of His Bride, the Church.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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